Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Dumpster diving

It’s been a good dumpster week for us. Dumpster week, you ask?

Neil and I enjoy dumpster diving. Okay, we don’t actually dive (except the one time three weeks ago when Henry went inside the dumpster to fish out the drawers of a beautiful dresser that is now in our bedroom); we just take items lying beside or on top of dumpsters, the side of the road, etc.

Since our apartment is a student complex, there are always good finds by the dumpsters the last weekend of the month. So far we’ve found three dressers, a glass/cast iron coffee table, an end table, a futon frame (which Neil disassembled for its wood), a front bike rack, a bike (with some key pieces missing), a bike seat, two puzzles (still in their bags), spoons, a cooler, a box fan, light bulbs, digital bathroom scale, stainless steel water bottle, tea kettle… and that’s just what I can remember from the last few weeks.

Most of it we keep, but some of the bigger pieces (dressers and coffee tables for example) we sell on Craigslist. Why do people throw away so much perfectly useful stuff? I’m not complaining, since clearly we benefit from their wastefulness, but I am always shocked by how much gets thrown away.

Today I went “shopping” curbside after someone put out the stuff he did not want after cleaning his garage. My haul today? For myself I found two vintage sweaters, a short sleeve top, jean shorts, a duvet cover, and a nightgown. For Neil, I found two undershirts, six pairs of boxers** (his are falling apart, so this was a much needed find), and a sweater.

I did not grow up garage sale-ing on the weekends; it’s a newly acquired pastime. We first got bit by the garage sale/dumpster diving/buying used whenever possible bug when we moved to Oregon for graduate school. Neil and I packed all of our earthly possessions (or at least the ones that weren’t kindly being stored by our parents) into “Rocketstar”, my beloved 1992 Honda Accord.We brought clothes, kitchen items, and … well, that’s about all that would fit. Clearly, furniture didn’t make the cut. The first item on our agenda (after stocking the fridge) was to find furniture to fill our apartment. In short order we found a futon, a bookshelf, a dresser, two desks (beautiful, old, solid wood desks I might add), a table, a lamp, three end tables, a coat rack, a vacuum, an entertainment center (that we used for kitchen storage), and a fan. I could not get over not only how much cheaper it was to buy secondhand, but also how much more fun I had in the process. (We did buy a new mattress because I’m freaked out by used mattresses and couches… we all get to have our things, right?)

Finding free (or cheap if bought at garage sales) items brings me so much more joy than buying new things. When I buy something new I agonize over it for days. I rarely go shopping with other people because they get annoyed by the fact I have to try on an item at least five times (and several times in the size above and below to make sure I’m getting the right one) before making a decision. Even after that lengthy process I still end up walking away empty handed more often than not. I experience none of the agony and only joy when I buy things secondhand. I love that I am giving an item new life, I love that it’s environmentally friendly, and I love that I am getting something new to me. The feeling of finding an item curbside you’ve been wanting for weeks? So much better than if I would have gone to my local box store and bought it immediately.

My addiction has only grown stronger since our first adventure in Oregon. Admittedly, my husband caught on to the beauty of it all before I did and he has been a regular garage saler for years.  It took me awhile to get my act together enough on a Saturday morning to bike around town looking for deals, but now I’m sold. Updating my wardrobe for a quarter an item? Now that’s worth waking up for.

*I know it’s odd to get your (or your husband’s) underwear from the side of the road (or in a dumpster as Neil did last week), but really, why is it any different than any other item of clothing? Once you wash it, it’s clean, but it still seems strange to use someone else’s underwear. It clearly didn’t stop me from picking it up and it won’t stop him from using it, but it did give me pause.

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